Saturday, September 29, 2018

Explorer: The Lost Islands

I got this one at a Little Free Library in Milford NH USA. My copy is a Bookcrossing book (BCID: 446-14437417, entry is here).

Title: Explorer: The Lost Islands
Publisher: Amulet Books
Writer: Jake Parker, Chrystin Garland, Jason Caffoe, Dave Roman, Raina Telgemeier, Michel Gagne, Katie Shanahan, Steven Shanahan, Kazu Kibuishi
Artist:Jake Parker, Chrystin Garland, Jason Caffoe, Dave Roman, Raina Telgemeier, Michel Gagne, Katie Shanahan, Steven Shanahan, Kazu Kibuishi
Colorist: Braden Lamb, Eric Kim, Selena Sizazzo, Jason Caffoe
Editor: Kazu Kibuishi

Graphic novel anthology edited by Amulet creator Kazu Kabuishi.

This is an anthology of fantasy stories loosely themed around the idea of islands. It opens with Jake Parker's cute fable about an island of hardworking rabbitfolk and the discovery of a useful robot who proves to be a bit too useful.

A pair of stories hit the "stranded on a desert island" idea."Carapace" by Jason Caffoe is a cute tale of the friendship that develops between a castaway and the ghost of a giant crab. Featuring giant crab theology! Dave Roman and Raina Telgemeier's "Desert Island Playlist" is an oddly surreal story that plays around with nonlinear time.

Michel Gagne's "Loah" is a mythic story of ancient fish seeking a way to escape disaster.

The amusing "Radio Adrift" by Katie Shanahan and Steve Shanahan involves a mage-in-training working to complete her pixie-hatching project and an unusual radio station that she tunes in to.

Editor Kazu Kibuishi contributes a classic fish story with "The Fishermen" that does a nice job of character development in the short space it has to work with.

My personal favorite was the very creepy "The Mask Dance" by Chrystin Garland.

All of these stories were good, and the artwork, while varied in style, was all fantastically colorful and imaginative. The tone of the stories varies a lot with the broad theme, but if you enjoy a general sense of myth and wonder, you will definitely find a lot to like in this volume.

Rating: 8/10

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Amulet Book Two: The Stonekeeper's Curse

The Kiddo brought this one home from his school library here in Shanghai.

Title: Amulet Book Two: The Stonekeeper's Curse
Publisher: Scholastic / Graphix
Date: 2009
Writer: Kazu Kibuishi
Artist: Kazu Kibuishi
Editor: Sheila Keenan

Navin and Emily, traveling in their robotic walking house, make their way to the city of Kanalis, where they hope to find a cure for the poison that threatens their mother's life. But the forces of the Elf King are closing in, and the voice of the Stone continues to try to wrest control of its power away from Emily.

I didn't read the first book in the series, but picking the story up here worked fine.

This fantasy epic echoes themes from inspirations like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, but the originality of Kibuishi's world comes through in the details, backed by his spectacular artwork.

This was fun, had a great supporting cast, and did a nice job of threading its subplots. The battle scenes looked great, and there were some brilliant moments of quiet emotion. I'm looking forward to reading more in this series!

Rating: 9/10

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Captain Spectacular #2

From the random stack of unread comics. I reviewed the first issue here.

Title: Captain Spectacular
Issue: 2
Date: 2007
Publisher: Gumshoe Comics
Writer: Nate Corrigan
Artist: Nate Corrigan

This issue features Captain Spectacular's brawl with Fun Guy's giant mushroom monster. The monstrous mushroom is giving the Captain all he can handle and then some.

Meanwhile the police are investigating reports of the mysterious Janitor.

This had fewer jokes than the first issue, but it brought the action, with the hero mostly on the receiving end.

The janitor subplot is developing slower, but it got more interesting with a bit of depth added to it this issue.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read and a good mix of action and comedy.

Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Tree Rats! Or, The Crepuscular Hobbyhorse

Given to us by the author over the summer.

Title: Tree Rats! Or, The Crepuscular Hobbyhorse
Date: 2015
Publisher: Drowned Town Press
Writer: E.J. Barnes
Cover: E.J. Barnes

Not a comic. This is a zine-format chapbook containing a single prose short story.

The story is a dark comedy and family drama, beginning with a scene that will be familiar to many: Family members trying to persuade and elderly relative to move into an assisted living facility. In this case, the narrator's uncle has gotten himself into the habit of shooting at squirrels with his b.b. gun out his bathroom window while dealing with his digestive issues.

When the narrator calls on an old friend to drive him from the East Coast to the Midwest to help with the resulting family drama, things quickly escalate into an over-the-top mess involving sex toys, a standard-shift truck, fireworks, stochastic music, an ill-tempered Italian greyhound, and militarized cops.

This had a lot of fun geeky elements, enough realistic details of how some family members can grow old ungracefully to give it an emotional punch, and plenty of laughs as it hits one bizarre plot twist after another.

Rating: 8.5/10

Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Amazing Spider-Man #800

Another comics I picked up at Merrymac Games and Comics this past summer.

Title: The Amazing Spider-Man
Issue: 800
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Date: July 2018
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Nick Bradshaw, Humberto Ramos, Victor Olazaba, Guiseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith, Stuart Immonen, Wade von Grawbadger, Marcos Martin
Colorist: Edgar Delgado, Java Tartaglia, Marte Gracia, Muntsa Vicente
Letterer: VC's Joe Caramagna
Cover: Humberto Ramos, Edgar Delgado
Editor:Kathleen Wisneski, Nick Lowe, Devin Lewis

Did I mention that I love collecting these big round-number issues? So here we have Amazing Spider-Man #800. It's interesting to contrast this with Action Comics #1000 (I reviewed it here). For Action Comics, DC went with a mostly-out-of-continuity tribute anthology, celebrating Superman and the idea of inspiration, with only a short final segment as a tease of actual future in-continuity action.

Marvel takes the opposite approach here. This is a single story concluding a major story arc, with big impacts on storyline continuity, including the death of a major character who has been there for most of those 800 issues.

The scenario has Spidey up against what could be his ultimate nemesis: The Red Goblin. That would be the Green Goblin attached to the Carnage symbiote.

Of course, given the momentous occasion, this story is absolutely loaded with nostalgia. There are a bunch of appearances by classic members of Peter Parker's supporting cast, not to mention tribute scenes that evoke some of the most emotional moments of past stories, particularly from Peter's past clashes with Normal Osborne.

This was a pretty good story with a lot of twists and action. There were some moments where it just felt like it had too many moving parts, but the finish came down to Spider-Man vs. (Red) Goblin like it needed to.

The throwback sequences were fun to spot, but they also had the unfortunate effect of reminding me that Spider-Man has had some truly awesome, emotional moments, and this story, while good, never really reaches the level of those classics.

This was satisfying, and it felt important, but at times it was trying too hard to look backward and trying too hard to be all things in a single issue.

Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Course

From the random stack of unread comics.

Title: The Course
Publisher: Alex Ferree
Date: 2009
Writer: Alex Ferree
Artist: Alex Ferree

Minicomic introduction that sets the stage for a larger story to come. We are introduced to Hungarian marathon runner Teleki, grieving the loss of his wife, and seeking answers from a mysterious fountain in Budapest, and the equally mysterious Verone.

What I wrote there is about all the story in this minicomic. The rest is concept sketches for the characters. The art is good, with realistic-looking characters that show a lot of personality, and the tease of a story did it's job of raising my interest.

Would definitely like to read more.

Rating: 7.5/10

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The 39-Story Treehouse

The Kiddo got this one at school last year. We read the first book in the series over the summer and I reviewed it here.

Title: The 39-Story Treehouse
Date: 2013
Publisher: Square Fish (Feiwel and Friends / Macmillan / Mackids)
Writer: Andy Griffiths
Artist: Terry Denton

This starts out similarly to the first book in the series, with a tour of all the latest additions to the Treehouse (World's Scariest Roller Coaster! Baby Dinosaur Petting Zoo!), followed by Andy and Terry facing another deadline for their next book from their publisher Mr. Big Nose, and the inevitable attempt to get our of actually putting in the work needed to finish the book.

In this case the scheme involves building a machine called the Once-Upon-A-Time-Machine to write the story for them. But when the machine develops a mind of its own, Andy and Terry travel to the Dark Side of the Moon, where the world's most infamous un-inventor had been banished.

Turns out, there was a reason he was sent there.

This book was a huge improvement over the first one for two reasons. First of all, the character of Jill is featured a lot more in this story, and she manages to be something of a rational voice in a few places while still keeping all her fun, quirky qualities. The chapter that takes place at her house is awesome.

And second, once Professor Stupido, the un-inventor is introduced, the book rapidly takes a turn into completely surreal territory on a cosmic scale.

The off-the-charts craziness level of the second half of the book totally brings this series to a new level (new story?).

I also appreciated the ability of the creative team to make even small details from early in the story relevant to the end. I did find that the story dragged a bit in places, but there were also plenty of good slapstick jokes to keep the mood light.

Rating: 7/10

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Batman: Prelude to the Wedding: Red Hood vs. Anarky #1

Another summer purchase. I don't recall which store I got this one at.

Title: Batman: Prelude to the Wedding: Red Hood vs. Anarky
Issue: 1
Date: August 2018
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Tim Seeley
Artist: Javier Fernandez, Hugo Petris, Otto Schmidt
Colorist: John Kalisz
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Cover: Rafeal Albuquerque, Dave McCaig
Editor: Dave Wielgosz

This is part of the lead-up to the big Batman/Catwoman wedding event. This issue features the Red Hood on security duty for Selina's bachelorette party, with Anarky as the would-be party crasher.

Anarky is pretty badly outmatched from the start, even with Hood's restriction that he needs to do all of his work secretly. Still, his tactics make for an amusing approach to resolving the situation.

The story suffers from the problem of trying to name-drop some controversial political issues while still attempting to remain neutral, and as a result, the dialogue between Hood and Anarky is not as sharp as it could be. Still, this was a fun and fast-paced story with some small but interesting insights into Selina's background and as well as decent character work on Red Hood, a character who usually doesn't impress me all that much.

Rating: 6/10

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Captain Spectacular #1

From the random stack of unread comics. I bought two issues of this whenever I bought them, so I'll be reviewing the second issue sometime soon.

Title: Captain Spectacular
Issue: 1
Date: 2006
Publisher: Gumshoe Comics
Writer: Nate Corrigan
Artist: Nate Corrigan

Black and white minicomic with a color cover.

Janitor by, well, night mostly, and superhero mostly by day, he is Captain Spectacular. This issue introduces the readers to his heroic deeds in both identities and introduces the menace of the Fun-Guy, who has the power to create and control fungus with his mind.

Captain Spectacular's attempt to lure the Fun Guy away from potential collateral damage in the city may have backfired, as out in farm country, the Fun Guy is in his natural element.

This was a good, quick-paced story with a lot of silliness and a couple of clever moments. Fun Guy is an amusingly daunting villain, and the ending cliffhanger sets up for a big super-powered brawl in the second issue.

Rating: 6.5/10

Action Comics #1000

I bought this at Merrymac Games and Comics in Merrimack NH this past summer.

Title: Action Comics
Issue: 1000
Date: June 2018
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Dan Jurgens, Peter J. Tomasi, Marv Wolfman, Geoff Johns, Richard Donner, Scott Snyder, Tom King, Louise Simonson, Paul Dini, Brad Meltzer, Brian Michael Bendis, Cindy Goff, Curt Swan, Bob Rozakis, Kurt Schaffenberger, Butch Guice
Artist: Dan Jurgens, Norm Rapmund, Patrick Gleason, John Romita Jr., Danny Miki, Curt Swan, Butch Guice, Kurt Schaffenberger, Bob Rozakis, Olivier Coipel, Rafael Albuquerque, Clay Mann, Jerry Ordway, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Kevin Nowlan, Walter Simonson, John Cassaday, Jorge Jimenez, Jim Lee, Scott Williams
Colorist: Hi-Fi, Alejandro Sanchez, Peter Steigerwald, Dave McCaig, Jordie Bellaire, Trish Mulvihill, Brennan Wagner, Laura Martin, Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Rob Leigh, Tom Napolitano, Nick Napolitano, John Workman, Carlos M. Mangual, Josh Reed, Chris Eliopoulos, Cory Petit
Cover: Jim Lee, Scott Williams, Alex Sinclair,
Editor: Paul Kaminski, Andrea Shea

I love these big-round-number issues! At one point, when DC made the idiotic decision to renumber Action and Detective, it looked like we might never get here, but fortunately the original numbering was restored a few years back, and so here we are at #1000.

This is an anthology featuring some truly legendary Superman writers and artists, most of it assembled around a loose theme of inspiration: How Supermans is an inspiration, and more importantly, how the courage of ordinary people serves as an inspiration to Superman.

The opening story had Superman reluctantly attending a Superman appreciation event in Metropolis with some encouragement from Lois Lane, and a bit of behind-the-scenes manipulating that took on a distinctively silly Silver-Age vibe.

Next up was "Never-Ending Battle", a sort of walk down memory lane in the form of single-panel pages taken from various alternate timeline and Elseworlds-style adventures, all framed around a battle with Vandal Savage. This was aimed right at the hardcore fans who have read every story. Casual readers were going to miss a lot here.

"The Enemy Within" features Maggie Sawyer and the question of how Superman decides which crisis to intervene in with so many things always happening at the same time. This was handled pretty well, considering the difficulty of the question it was addressing, and Maggie came off great.

"The Car" was my favorite story in this issue, a throwback to Action Comics #1 set in the 1930s that answers (among other questions) what became of that car that Superman is demolishing on the famous Action #1 cover.

"The Fifth Season" was a great little Lex Luthor vignette, and "Of Tomorrow" was a sentimental far-future piece.

My second-favorite story was "Five Minutes", focusing on the staff of the Planet, with a some introspective moments leading to a humorous ending.

"Actionland" featured Mr. Mxyzptlk, and Brad Meltzer's "Faster Than A Speeding Bullet" was another story hitting the theme of ordinary people inspiring Superman, in this case with the action condensed down to a second or less.

The last story was a preview of the upcoming Brian Michael Bendis run, and it introduced a new villain who didn't seem to have much trouble beating Superman and Supergirl. The book ends with the new villain making some "shocking" revelations about Krypton and Superman's origin story.

The opening and ending stories were my least favorite in the book, which is unfortunate, since those were the ones most tied to current continuity. This was my first introduction to Superman and Lois' son since I haven't been reading much in the way of current in-continuity comics, and he comes off mostly as annoying.

Rogol Zaar, the new villain, certainly comes off as powerful, but that's not difficult to write, and the tone of the scene was uneven, with some weak humor mixed into what should have come off as a grim scenario. The tease of big new revelations (read retcons) didn't do much for me either. I don't need every new writer to rework Superman's past.

But that being said, there was plenty to like in this book. Most of the one-shot stories with well thought out, with some pleasant surprises. And as mentioned earlier, the cast of talent here is spectacular.

There was a lot of beautiful artwork, and enough of the nostalgic and introspective stuff to make this special in the way it needed to be.

Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Steven Universe #17

Here's one I picked up at Jetpack Comics in Rochester NH over the summer.

Title: Steven Universe
Issue: #17
Date: June, 2018
Publisher: Kaboom!
Writer: Grace Craft
Artist: Rii Abrego
Colorist: Whitney Cogar
Letterer: Mike Fiorentino
Cover: Missy Pena
Editor: Michael Moccio, Whitney Leopard

Steven brings home a new video game and invites Peridot to try it out. Peridot proceeds to become obsessed with playing, and seems to be pretty much invincible after practicing for a full day and night straight.

I like how this story progressed, with very real human reactions. The whole things felt both real and gentle, with its emphasis on friendship and understanding that came through in the end.

The facial expressions on the characters were excellent throughout the story, and the video game itself was goofy, surreal fun.

Rating: 8/10

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Red Sonja / Tarzan #2 (Cover A)

Another summer purchase at New England Comics in Quincy MA USA.

Title: Red Sonja / Tarzan
Issue: Volume 1, #2 (Cover A)
Publisher: Dynamite
Date: 2018
Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Walter Geovani
Colorist: Adriano Augusto
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Editor: Joseph Rybrandt, Luke Lieberman, Kevin Ketner
Cover: Aaron Lopresti

The second issue of Gail Simone and Walter Geovani's crossover between Tarzan and Red Sonja goes straight to the time travel and time paradoxes, not to mention a bit of Victorian-era namedropping.

This also features a straight-up fight between Sonja and Tarzan, which seems to exist here mostly because you can't really do the crossover without having them fight, and the second issue was as good a place as any to get it out of the way.

Notably absent from this issue is Eson Duul, the villain, who got a ton of screen time in the the first issue (reviewed here, btw).

This issue is primarily focused on getting the two title characters acquainted with each other (twice, because time travel), and as such, it fell a bit short in the plot development department. It did end with a setup that should get things moving forward (backward!) next issue.

Rating: 6/10

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Star Wars: The Last Jedi #3

The Kiddo picked this one out over the summer. I don't recall which store we got it at.

Title: Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Issue: 3
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Date: August 2018
Writer: Gary Whitta
Artist: Michael Walsh
Colorist: Mike Spicer
Letterer: VC's Travis Lanham
Cover: Phil Noto
Editor: Mark Paniccia, Tom Groneman

I love Phil Noto's cover featuring Finn, Rose, and DJ.

This chapter of the film adaptation is focused primarily on Rey's interactions with Kylo Ren, and Finn and Rose's mission to Cantonica. This includes my some of my favorite Rose scenes.

As with the first issue (reviewed here), the adaptation looks good and gets the visuals right on the important moments. It helps that the scenes in this issue are very character-focused.

Rating: 6/10

Friday, September 7, 2018

Red Sonja / Tarzan #1 (Cover A)

I got this along with the second issue of the series this past July at New England Comics in Quincy MA USA.

Title: Red Sonja / Tarzan
Issue: Volume 1, #1 (Cover A)
Publisher: Dynamite
Date: 2018
Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Walter Geovani
Colorist: Adiano Augusto
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Editor: Joseph Rybrandt, Luke Lieberman, Kevin Ketner
Cover: Adam Hughes

This classic pulp hero teamup spends most of its first issue establishing the villain, Eson Duul, who is basically an over-the-top interdimensional version of Kraven the Hunter, with a couple of reasonably dangerous henchpersons in tow.

He starts out in a business dispute with Lord Greystoke, but that very rapidly turns personal. Meanwhile in Sonja's corner of the multiverse, Duul has gotten the better of Sonja in an encounter and she is brooding on revenge and seeking out a bit of dimensional travel to get her back on Duul's trail.

I'm a huge Burroughs fan, and I thought the portrayal of Tarzan as Lord Greystoke in England, the competent aristocrat putting a thin veneer of civilization over his true nature, was spot-on.

Sonja also had some great moments character revelation.

I'm a bit less sold on Duul, whose motivations feel generic, and who is so over-the-top nasty that he comes off as a bit too much of a villainous cliche. That being said, he is nicely established as a genuine threat even against a combination like Tarzan and Sonja.

Rating: 6.5/10

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Infinity Countdown: Black Widow #1

I got this in June at Merrymac Comics and Games in Merrimack NH.

Title: Infinity Countdown: Black Widow
Issue: 1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Date: August, 2018
Writer: Gerry Duggan
Artist: Nik Virella, Brent Schoonover
Colorist: Chris Peter
Letterer: VC's Cory Petit
Cover:Yasmine Putri
Editor: Annalise Bissa, Jordan D. White

Black Widow has somehow ended up with the Space Stone, and she's found herself in "some kind of profoundly British nonsense" with Jamie Braddock on her trail in London. The infinity stone has given her teleportation powers, but that may not be enough to match Braddock's magical abilities, not to mention a legion of hooded cultists and some magically-controlled children. Natasha ends up getting help from a rather unlikely ally before all is said and done.

This was fun start to finish. I don't want to spoil, but the special guest star was completely unexpected and a very clever rendition of the character.

Although this is part of a crossover, the immediate story wraps up to a satisfying conclusion.

Black Widow dealing with magical foes is something I hadn't seem much of and it worked here way better than I would have expected.

Rating: 8.5/10

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Rival Angels: Damsels of Destruction: Wrestling Maneuvers And Techniques Volume 1

My friend received this as a bonus when she bought Rival Angels: Rookie Year Volume 4 (reviewed here) for me from the creative team at a convention in the Midwest in 2017.

Title: Rival Angels: Damsels of Destruction: Wrestling Maneuvers And Techniques
Issue: Volume 1
Date: 2014
Publisher: Rival Angels
Writer: Alan Evans, Justin Riley
Artist: Alan Evans

Full-color minicomic featuring full-page artwork depicting classic pro wrestling holds applied by (and to) characters from the Rival Angels wrestling webcomic series.

Many of these are quite nice. A few suffer from the challenge of trying to capture fast-moving action in a still drawing. But overall, the holds look great.

Commentary is supplied by (who else?) Rival Angels commentary team Dawn Ellison and Jeff Krew, who are admittedly not my favorite part of Rival Angels, but at least their obnoxiousness is mostly reigned in here.

There is no plot, but this is still a nice supplement to the Rival Angels series, especially for pro wrestling who like to see their favorite moves.

Rating: 5.5/10

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Batwoman #8

From the random stack of unread comics.

Title: Batwoman
Issue: 8
Date: June 2012
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: J. H. Williams III, W. Haden Blackman
Penciller: Amy Reeder
Inker: Rob Hunter
Colorist: Guy Major
Letterer: Todd Klein
Cover: Amy Reeder
Editor: Harvey Richards, Rickey Purdin, Mike Marts

This is the last of an eight-issue run of New 52 Batwoman that I bought back in 2012. My reviews for the issues leading up to this one are here: Issue #1, Issue #2, Issue #3, Issue #4, Issue #5, Issue #6, Issue #7.

Based on how #7 ended, my expectation was that this would be the finish to the arc, but instead, it ended up adding another layer of complication.

Batwoman has to fight through Falchion's minions, including a more-mutated-than-usual Killer Kroc.

And again, much of the issue jumps around in time. We get to see Batwoman dealing with Maggie Sawyer on a professional, rather than personal basis. Not surprisingly, love between a cop and a vigilante and be a bit star-crossed.

This felt like it should have ended here, but it was still all pretty good, and the gaps in the overall plot continue to get filled in bit by bit. This issue was also a bit more gory than the series has generally been.

I'm curious to see how this wraps up. I may have to go searching to find #9 at some point.

Rating: 6/10

Saturday, September 1, 2018

This Is A Sampler!

From the random unread comics stack.

Title: This Is A Sampler! Of Aya's Cartoons
Publisher: Aya Rothwell
Writer: Aya Rothwell
Art: Aya Rothwell

Cute tiny minicomic featuring Aya Rothwell's single-panel takes on various topics from film school to Harry Potter to X-Men, along with a conversation between two turtles.

Nice representation of the artist's wit and a fun little bit of geekery.

Rating: 7.5/10